By Chuck Strouse
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By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
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Shiver, in spite of the conflict, decided it was all right for him to remain in the council chambers and act as chairman of the meeting. "I will stay in the discussion to monitor the discussion according to parliamentary procedure," he declared from the dais. "But I will not be able to discuss [the item]."
As chairman of the council meeting, Shiver maintained the power to determine who would speak, who would be recognized to make motions, and which motions would be allowed -- all of which would seem to constitute participation. But the tape recording of the meeting reveals that Shiver went well beyond these duties and actively participated in the debate.
Each of the banks that stood to lose city business made presentations opposing the RFP. The most stinging attacks, however, came from Robert Epling, who seemed personally offended that the city would consider pulling out of his bank. He savaged Nachlinger as being untrustworthy and unprofessional. (Today Nachlinger says he tried to respond to Epling, but Shiver motioned for him to remain in his seat.)
The tape also makes clear that, in light of the uproar from the other banks, the entire city council opposed Nachlinger's plan. A motion was made to reject the RFP. As tension grew, Councilman Roscoe Warren chided Shiver for not allowing the council's committee system to deal with the issue sooner.
"I am not going to say it was a communication breakdown from the council," Shiver responded. "What I will say is that I am very, very upset with the comments that I heard here today and representing that we are not doing our job. The City of Homestead owes a debt of gratitude to the three institutions sitting in this room. And quite frankly I'm very upset that due to a technicality pointed out by our attorneys tonight that I can't debate this issue. That really frustrates me. In years past that has never been pointed out. Enough said about that."
Shiver, though, kept right on going, repeating as statements of fact many of the allegations made by Epling against Nachlinger. "But returning your phone calls, keeping constant communication, telling one person something and telling somebody something else," he huffed, "this city will have no part of it. I personally will have no part of it. And that frustrates me that we are constantly hearing those types of comments coming back from business leaders in this community. To be quite honest with you, I echo what [Councilman Steve] Bateman said. I wasn't fully aware of [the banking issue] until it was ready to go to council. And that is too late."
Finally another council member interrupted Shiver to call the question.
"Yes, sir," Shiver said. "So the motion on the floor is a rejection of the RFP."
The motion passed unanimously, with Shiver abstaining. A council member then made a second motion to leave the city's banking services with Community Bank and the other institutions for another year. The representative from Barnett Bank stood up and accused the council of creating a system of collusion whereby the other banks were being guaranteed a piece of the city's business regardless of what they charged. Why should Barnett try to save the city money or offer a higher return on deposits, he asked, if Barnett's competitors don't have to?
Shiver cut off the Barnett official. "There is a motion on the floor right now," he snapped. "I think this is an issue that needs to be dealt with technically by our staff in a discussion with the three institutions we already work with." Shiver paused for a moment and asked the city attorney: "Can I talk like that?"
Having been scolded by Shiver earlier in the meeting, the city attorney backed down. "You can talk like -- "
Before the attorney could finish his thought, Shiver testily said, "Okay, fine." He then continued speaking in favor of the motion. "I think that these banks that are in the room right now have done very well by us for over the last 100 years," he argued. "And in that case we are not saying that an exclusive right or an exclusive relationship is the best business decision on the surface. However, if you look at a holistic approach, we are a business, but we are also in the business of providing jobs, which all of these banks do. We are also in the business of providing community support, which all of these institutions do. So there are multiple facets of this decision which aren't strictly black and white. They're intangible. You can't qualify them sometimes."
The second motion passed unanimously, with Shiver once again abstaining. By the time the meeting was finished, Shiver had spoken more than any other member of the city council.
Last week Shiver told me he didn't recall the specifics of that 1998 city council meeting. Obviously, he said, since the vote was unanimous, his actions were irrelevant. "I wish I had that kind of control and power," he joked. Had he been doing something wrong, he added, the city attorney would have stopped him. "I did what the attorney asked me to do," Shiver claimed.
The law firm of Weiss Serota Helfman Pastoriza & Guedes acts as the city attorney for Homestead. Richard Weiss was out of town last week and could not be reached for comment.